Friday, 26 July 2013

Activities: Action Asia Mongolia Ultra Marathon 2013

sandstorm mongolia
Following on from the recent participation in the Outward Bound Adventure race held in Hong Kong in March, a few Royale staff, it seems, have got the bug for putting themselves through painful physical challenges! Having always wanted to visit Mongolia after seeing it numerous times on NatGeo and such like, I decided to register for the Action Asia Ultra Marathon. The event which takes place at the end of June consists of a 3 day 60km run/hike through the plains of Western Mongolia approximately 300km to the west of the capital Ulaan Baatar (UB). Further interest was drummed up in the office and the final team of intrepid hikers consisted of John Fawcett, Dean Locke, Wayne Griffiths and myself along with a couple of non-Royale members in the form of Geoff Knoell and Peter Hymns. 

royale internationalAfter 7 hours of flying via Seoul due to an insistence  not to fly on local carrier MIAT (!) we arrived in UB excited at what lay ahead. A brief stay in a downtown hotel which unfortunately refused to serve alcohol due to presidential elections that day, meant we were off to a healthier start than perhaps had been anticipated. The following afternoon we boarded a bus to head west into the plains. The stunning scenery and wild horses made for interesting viewing but as we approached the four hour mark we were all getting rather bored. That was, until, the quality of the road surface took a decided turn for the worse. Little did we know but Mongolia is the world pot hole capital and soon our bus driver was swerving wildly around the potholes/canyons but seemingly not easing off on the accelerator either! We could picture the headlines, “Brits killed in Mongolian bus crash horror!” Being Brits however, we sat resolute with our stiff upper lips and carried on regardless, that was until the bus developed a puncture and we were stranded roadside approximately 200km from the nearest settlement. After giving the offending tire a few exploratory kicks our driver began to jack the bus up and replace it with a spare from 1962. We reboarded and hoped/prayed we would make it the last 100km in one piece.

Eventually, having been travelling for some 7 hours, we finally made it to base camp and lugged our cases of tinned food to what would be our accommodation for the next 3 nights, a traditional Mongolian “Ger.” The Gers were surprisingly well equipped with proper beds and the camp even had hot water showers and flushing toilets so we were suitably relieved (excuse the pun) having been told to expect the worst. After a patchy sleep we were up at 0600 for the first days race. 

The 60km race consisted of 3 days of roughly 20km per day. The first day proved to be fairly manageable will only a few climbs and with the sky overcast temperatures were favourable and the course was polished off in 3-4 hours. Day 2 saw a more challenging route with a steep climb and also some energy sapping hiking over sand dunes. For the unfortunate Geoff (who was doing the longer 100km race) day 2 also consisted of a violent sandstorm that rolled through the valley whilst Royale team members were safely back in the camp sipping on their Mongolian beers. It was like a scene from ‘The Mummy’ and Geoff finally emerged somewhat sandblasted and rather shocked by the whole experience! A few Mongolian beers turned into a few more and before long Murton had purchased a bottle of Malibu. Several hours later and rather the worse for wear we were christened by the other race participants (who took things rather more seriously) as “The Malibu Crew,” a moniker which we were all quite proud of! 

The final day’s race started at an ungodly 0530 and the team all crossed the finish line a few hours later with a suitable sense of accomplishment with Fawcett coming first in his age category. His 1st place certificate has since been emailed globally and framed in gold! All that was left was a perilous 5 hour bus journey at ridiculous speed and we departed the land of Ghengis Khan a happy bunch. Further races are planned in Royale’s 20th Anniversary year so we look forward to the next challenge that lies ahead! 

Shared by:
Philip Murton
International Sales Manager

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